Monthly Archives: September 2014

Present from some friends (Or: Kinetic sand)

Yesterday I went out to eat with some friends to celebrate getting my NT2 programma II diploma. My taalcoach (language coach – from SamenSpraak) arrived with some gifts. There were three of them. One book about Dutch language (puzzles to help you learn the language), one 2015 daily calendar from Onze Taal (“Our Language”) and a third wrapped gift that was weirdly heavy.

Weird but cool! I got kinetic sand. Check out this YouTube video.

unshaped kinetic sandLooks like ordinary sand in the photo, no? Not quite. The sand particles only stick to themselves, which mans that it moves in clumps rather than separately. It looks really cool. Marco has already started playing with it a bit. Here was his first attempt:

kinetic sand first attempt

And check out this picture to see how it moves together:

kinetic sand movement properties


Note the pictures above show only half of the sand we were given; it was easier to keep the amount smaller to test what it looks like.

And finally, an image from the official website:

Categories: Friends&Family | 5 Comments

Into the darkness (Or: The north caves of Maastricht)

Unfortunately the vacation is now over. But I did come away with some nice photographs! We visited two Dutch cities – Arnhem and Maastricht. One of the places we visited in Maastricht was the caves of St. Pieter – the north caves to be exact. These caves were dug out to extract the limestone (or marl). At its largest it used to have 20,000 corridors and measured 230km. Now it measures about 80km.

Interestingly the first corridors were short enough that most adults would have to crouch to make their way through.  As time went on and more limestone was needed, the floor itself was dug out, creating tall corridors that were easily 4-5 meters tall in some places. The guide also showed us ruts in the wall at some corners. The most efficient way to transport the limestone out was by cart and horse and horses tend to take the shortest way possible, which meant that they would push the wheels of the cart against the wall, creating the ruts.

The best part of the tour was when the tour guide asked us if we wanted to walk a bit of the caves in complete darkness. About 30 meters – this stretch had no turns on the left side for you to lose yourself, so all you had to do was keep your left hand on the wall and walk carefully/slowly. Note that this was an option – those who did not want to partake went on ahead with the lanterns and waited for us to arrive. It was incredible (and I humbly admit this was because it was in a controlled environment). I was nervous at a few points though!

Here are some photos of the drawings. Note that these were done in charcoal as that was the only medium that would not decay in this damp, cold environment (10c/50f year round).

Continue reading

Categories: Maastricht | Leave a comment

Further anniversary surprises (Or: Cheesecake waiting in the fridge)

When Marco and I returned home last night from our vacation, we found a note on a paper bag from Roger. He had left two slices of chocolate cheesecake in the fridge. Double chocolate chip cheesecake to be precise – one of the the three flavors we had at our wedding reception, along with strawberry and cappuccino. Marco and I also had some Prosecco in the fridge.  That was the welkomstdrankje (welcome drink) at the wedding reception.

1 year anniversary double chocolate cheesecake

So – reliving memories one year later!

The cheesecake was from the Cheesecake Company in The Hague. I highly recommend it (and mention it frequently).

Categories: Marco&Niki | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Holding hands (Or: A year ago today)

A year ago today Marco and I were married.

wedding photo

This morning he surprised me with this:


These were the wedding favors we handed out during the reception that night. 🙂

Categories: Marco&Niki | 4 Comments

September (Or: Signs the holidays are just around the corner?)

Last Friday Marco and I were in Zoetermeer, at the Albert Heijn. (I took off work at 12PM to start my vacation early…yay!) I was slightly confused to see kruidnootjes already available for purchase.

Kruidnootjes en meer display in Den Haag

These cookie like snacks are traditionally purchased around Sinterklaas time, or 5 December. It’s not even October yet! Though I must admit I was also a bit shocked to walk into a Xenos store and see Halloween items for purchase, although that was partly because Halloween hasn’t quite caught on in this country yet. Actually Marco said that everything you see above is traditionally sold around Sinterklaas time, not just the kruidnootjes.

Kruidnootjes display in Den Haag

As Marco, Roger and I are going back to the States for Christmas, I suppose Mom and Dad will have to start thinking about what they want to order from the Dutch delivery service! 😉


Categories: Food, Holidays | Tags: | 2 Comments

De passage (Of: Nu 2x zo veel Passage)

It’s not too much longer before the addition to De Passage is open… That is a shopping area that connects a few important shopping streets together. It’s been quite annoying to have it under construction as of late, since that meant having to walk a detour to get where you needed to go.

De passage construction The Hague

But as of 18 September, it will be open again! Above you can see someone hard at work on the finishing touches. In the distance is De Bijenkorf (a retail store). I also have a lovely image of De Bijenkorf at Christmas time.

Categories: Shopping, The Hague | Tags: | Leave a comment

Dutch on Duolingo (Or: Now available on iOS/Android!)

I was pleased to receive an update from Duolingo – this update now includes the ability to learn Dutch. I have written about Duolingo before, but I personally think the experience is vastly improved by being on a mobile device. Duolingo is more on the minimalist side – there isn’t a lot to stare at on each screen. The iPhone version simply reduces the white space, without losing any of the look and feel of the PC version. And in this case, using your finger is much faster than using the mouse.

Duolingo for iOS

Duolingo for Android

Duolingo for the iPhone

Note that if your Dutch is already at a higher level you do have an option to test out of the various levels. Duolingo is great for reading, writing and listening, but the Dutch version does not have speaking exercises available yet (perhaps because this language course is still in beta).

Duolingo uses the concept of gamification – using gaming concepts (achievements, earning experience points, etc) in learning settings to make users keep wanting to come back for more.


Categories: Apps | Tags: | 4 Comments

Couldn’t stay away (Or: On to B2-C1)

Last night I signed up for another Dutch course! I know that I said I would wait until the Spring… but I guess I just couldn’t stay away. This one will focus just on Dutch conversation though (to try and improve my speaking skills) rather than a full course offering (reading, writing, listening, speaking). The course I signed up for was at the B2-C1 level (see Wikipedia). Woo — moving into the ‘proficient user’ stage! Of course it comes with a textbook – which appeals to the librarian in me!

It begins in a few weeks – after Marco and I go on vacation next week. We’re heading off to the east of the country – Arnhem, Maastricht and the like.

Ik kijk uit naar vakantie, hoor!

Keep calm and learn Dutch

Categories: Courses | Tags: | 7 Comments

Another letter from DUO (Of: Niet meer inburgeringsverplicht!)

Yesterday I received what might just be my last letter from DUO. At least on the topic of inburgeringsverplicht (the civic integration requirement).

letter from DUO

The letter says (roughly translated):

We (previously) sent you a letter. At the time we said that you had civic integration requirements. This letter informs you about the (current) status of your civic integration requirements.

You have received a complete exemption from your civic integration requirements.

Why have you received this exemption?

You have successfully obtained a Dutch language diploma. This diploma shows that you have done enough on your civic integration requirements. Therefore you are not required to do the civic integration examination.

Categories: NT2 Staatsexamen Programma II | Tags: | 4 Comments

A bribe of sorts (Or: Cakes by work)

Recently we had an all-staff meeting at work. One of the benefits of going to said meeting (which is held 3-4 times a year) is the coffee and cakes afterwards.

cakes by work

Talk about a sugar rush…

Categories: Food | Tags: | 5 Comments

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